Now we’ve got some non-YouGov polls showing CON leads the position looks a tad less good for LAB

January 19th, 2019

With three new voting intention polls out in the past couple of hours this has been the biggest evening for Westminster surveys June 7th 2017 – the day before the last general election.

One of the positive things for LAB until this evening is that no other pollster than YouGov had shown a CON lead since the first week in November. It became a little bit easier to portray YouGov as an outlier.

The big thing in polling analysis is the general direct of travel rather than one particular poll and it does appear as though the Tory position in relation to LAB has edged up a notch.

Certainly LAB ambivalence on Brexit, the biggest issue for years, had actually worked but I just wonder whether that is changing. This demonstration earlier in the week shows the tensions.

Another thought is that if this parliament does survive until the 2022 then Brexit will be done and dusted and will have much less of a political impact.

Mike Smithson


A Customs Union deal needs to be on the table if No Deal is to be avoided

January 19th, 2019

The only way to get Brexit Deal votes is to go softer

It’s lonely at the top. It’s probably lonelier if you cut yourself off and isolate yourself from your colleagues, even if they are after their own interests and your own job. This last week has proven just how politically lonely Theresa May is, yet still she carries on. There’s something admirable in that and perhaps it’s no small part of the explanation for the rise in rise in the level of sympathy the public feel for the PM, as noted in the previous thread, and also in her rising ‘Best PM’ lead (the two times YouGov have asked that this year, the leads – 18 and 16 per cent, respectively – have been the biggest since the 2017 election).

However, despite having tried to keep her Brexit strategy very close to home, the disastrous defeat of her Brexit plan means that if she’s to avoid a No Deal outcome, she can’t just carry on as if nothing has changed. Nominally, she’s recognized that by arranging meetings with opposition MPs and party leaders (though not Corbyn, who’s launched his own No Platform protest against the PM), but in practice, unless she’s willing to change any of the fundamentals, it’s hard to see what benefit that can bring her.

Had she been a more people-person sort of leader, she’d have been cultivating these links since the election, when it became obvious that they’d be useful (or at the very least, she’d have authorized senior members of the government to do so). Unfortunately, that’s not her style or character. Nor, as Ken Clarke noted, is transactional politics or flexibility.

That said, when circumstances have demanded it, she has made concessions or changed course – and circumstances most certainly do demand that now. For all that the scale of the defeat of her plan was record-breaking, it wasn’t the most important aspect of the result. What the numbers revealed was that there aren’t the numbers in the Commons for a harder Brexit.

Of all the MPs who voted against, it’s only within the Conservative ranks that those who want a cleaner break with the EU are to be found. To that might be added the DUP, for whom the NI-GB relationship is more important that the UK-EU one and who might support a No Deal outcome (but would only support a No Deal outcome as a harder Brexit from where we are, because any other deal would require a stronger N Ireland backstop; they might just as easily go for a softer Brexit if that reduces the need for any Irish Sea divisions). Beyond that, the Labour, Lib Dem, SNP and others are uniformly for some form of closer relationship.

If the PM is serious about getting a deal then, she’s going to have to offer something substantial. This immediately creates two problems. Firstly, the reaction among a large number of her own MPs is going to range from anger to rage to apoplexy. Having suffered more than a hundred of them voting against her, to then move the deal further away is not exactly conciliatory. On the other hand, they’ve hardly earned the right to be given a veto, having tried and failed to remove her and having voted down the best chance of an orderly withdrawal. With May now safe for a year from a leadership challenge triggered by a minority of Con MPs, she doesn’t need to act as the captive of the ERG.

The other problem is that the EU said they wouldn’t renegotiate. However, when they said that, they effectively meant that there wouldn’t be any more concessions from Brussels. If May were instead to go back and say “we’d like in on the Customs Union”, I suspect the door would be open. The EU doesn’t want No Deal either and the UK within the Customs Union permanently would solve some (but not all) of the N Ireland questions. Having conceded the principle of the issue for the transition period, it’s a small step to make the arrangement permanent.

Labour has of course demanded more than just Customs Union. They also want permanent alignment on a rule-taking basis on employment and environmental regulations too. These would, I think, be a step too far for Tory MPs. It’s one thing to give up trade rights which have proven illusory so far, it’s another to see large parts of what could easily otherwise be domestic legislation be dictated from Brussels. It shouldn’t be forgotten that it was precisely this point that kicked off the whole Eurosceptic movement within the Tories, in Delors’ Social Europe and Thatcher’s response to it in the Bruges Speech.

However, might Labour prove more flexible there than is being assumed? Probably not but it’s not impossible. There’s a reason that Corbyn has always been sceptical towards Europe, which is his suspicion that it’s a Capitalist Club. He may be right. There’s no guarantee that the flow of social legislation from Brussels will continue to be progressive. Might the rise of the New Right eclipse the consensus of the Centre Left on the continent and revise the Brussels policy? It’s certainly possible. Would Corbyn, as a potential PM, then be bound by treaty to repeal employment rights in order to keep the mirror with the EU and not impose artificial barriers? It’s not a happy prospect. Better to leave them off the table altogether? Perhaps.

Besides, how viable would it be to continue to refuse to engage with the government if they made a serious offer? The risk to Corbyn is twofold: firstly, that May got her deal through by splitting Labour as badly as her own party, and secondly, that if she didn’t get it through, Labour’s intransigence makes it complicit in the No Deal failure (which its own supporters will be much more upset about).

On the other hand, offering Customs Union membership would provoke further resignations from the government, including the cabinet. May could lose her third Brexit Secretary in barely six months, plus the likes of Chris Grayling (so it’s not all downside). The cries of ‘betrayal’ would be inevitable, and would be reinforced by the Article 50 extension that would have to be requested if a revised deal could be agreed.

The question – the gamble – is could the stars align sufficiently to find a majority that could back such a plan in the Commons, that could enable to the EU to sign up to it, and that could not prompt an outright mutiny among Tory MPs? The answer is that I don’t know. On balance, my guess would be not, though not by much. But given where the numbers are, it’s the only solution that seems capable of preventing No Deal.

David Herdson


Trump is clearing the road to his own impeachment

January 19th, 2019

‘La Famiglia’by Marf

His shutdown has backfired and he’s vulnerable

For all the attention on Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s campaign and associated activities, the thing that will ultimately do for Trump – or save him – is politics. The latest reports, that Trump directed his lawyer to lie to Congress, are certainly not good news for the embattled president but nor are they catastrophic. For one thing, as he is fond of noting, Michael Cohen is not necessarily a reliable witness (although Trump’s relationship with the truth is hardly straightforward). More importantly though, impeachment is and has always been a political process rather than a legal one – and the politics have favoured him so far.

Trump’s presidency has been all about keeping his base happy and generally he’s done a very good job of that. That has two related effects. Firstly, it all-but assures his renomination, barring accidents; and secondly, it creates a very significant disincentive for Republican senators and congressmen to act against Trump’s interests, for fear of a backlash.

    Take away the support of his base though and he begins to look a lot more vulnerable. And Trump’s problem is that his support is falling and it’s his own fault.

Having taken ownership of the federal shutdown right at the start, the public are taking him at his word. More than half of those polled in nearly all the polls on the shutdown blame the president, against about a third who blame Democrats in Congress, and the figures are, if anything, getting worse for Trump.

Worse, his ratings have taken a hammering with his natural support. His net approval rating in one poll fell by 18 points among suburban men (+12 to -6), 13 points with white evangelicals (+56 to +43), 10 points with Republicans (+83 to +73) and 7 points with non-college white women (+20 to -4). Now, some of those scores still look pretty good – and they are – but they have to be offset against the very large numbers who hate him with a passion.

Given that the Mueller investigation has been going on so long that it’s essentially become background music, the Cohen revelations have probably been treated by those who choose to believe in Trump as a combination of fake news and Deep State conspiracy. It’s Inside-the-Beltway talk. By contrast, the federal shutdown isn’t. Even if it doesn’t affect all that many people directly, it has a big indirect effect and it’s undermining Trump’s reputation as the Great Dealmaker. After all, the government has been in shutdown with workers furloughed for longer under Trump (within just his first two years of presidency), than under Carter, Reagan, Bush-41, Bush-43 and Obama combined.

Will it affect his support enough to cause Democrats to pull the Impeachment trigger? That does depend on whether Mueller can find something of a smoking gun. It also depends on whether they wouldn’t rather run against what ought to be a very beatable incumbent if he can’t rediscover his touch. But some Republican senators are already wavering on the shutdown; the hyper-partisan period of his presidency might already be coming to an end. If Trump’s ratings with his base continue to fall, that will have a knock-on effect on the generic Republican brand, which senators will have to take seriously (and note that the Republicans gained 9 seats in the 2014 senate elections: that’s a very high tidemark to be defending).

At present, Trump is 5/4 against with Ladbrokes to be impeached in his first term, and 2/1 to leave office due to impeachment or resignation. I don’t think there’s yet any value in either of those bets. It’s getting closer though.

David Herdson


Some comfort for TMay from YouGov – 56% of those polled have felt sympathy for her

January 18th, 2019

It’s not going to make getting Brexit through any easier

Even amongst LAB voters there’s a relatively high percentage holding this view – 43% against 52% who haven’t. There’s quite a gender divide with 60% of the women polled saying they had felt sympathy and 32% saying they hadn’t. Amongst men the split was 52-43%.

Unfortunately what the general public thinks isn’t too helpful though it might explain why her “Best PM” ratings are holding up.

Meanwhile on Betfair’s new “Deal or No Deal” market it is a 14% chance that the UK will leave the EU by March 30th without a deal.

Mike Smithson


More Democrats put their hats into the ring in the fight for the nomination to take on Trump

January 18th, 2019

While all in the UK have been focused on Brexit and it’s aftermath things are starting to hot up in the race to be elected president of the United States in November 2020. This will be the 5th White House campaign that will be covered by Politicalbetting since the site’s foundation in 2004.

These are massive betting events and throughout the next 22 months there’ll be a wide range of markets to bet on.

There’s a lot of early activity going on at the moment as prospective Democratic party nominees put the toe into the water to try to determine whether they’ve got a chance. This is important because securing the funding and organisational backing for a prolonged campaign is essential.

Ahead of WH2016 Hillary Clinton had so squeezed the potential funding and campaign expertise resources available to her party that other contenders were almost excluded from attempting a bid right from the beginning.

This time it is going to be very different and by the time the first TV debates take place in the summer there could be more than a dozen serious contenders.

Of the leading names Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was first to move making an announcement on New Year’s eve. Then there was Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii and this week New York Kirsten Gillibrand from New York made announcements.

My 66/1 tip from January 2017 now current favourite for the nomination , Senator Kamala Harris is due to launch her bid on Monday while we wait for the prominent men to move. These include Senator Bernie Sanders, ex-VP Joe Biden and Beto O’Rourke.

Biden and Sanders have the best name recognition which is helping them in the early polls though I’m not convinced by either. Age is a factor.

The latest betting from the Betfair exchange.

Kamala Harris 19%
Beto O’Rourke 18%
Joe Biden 13%
Elizabeth Warren 6%
Tulsi Gabbard 6%
Bernie Sanders 6%
Kirsten Gillibrand 5%
Cory Booker 4%
Amy Klobuchar 5%
Sherrod Brown 5%

I’ve got longshot bets on all apart from Booker, Biden and Sanders.

Mike Smithson


NEW PB / Polling Matters podcast. Deal or no deal. Plus are the Tories really ahead in the polls?

January 17th, 2019

On this week’s podcast Keiran Pedley and Leo Barasi discuss the fallout from a hectic week in Westminster. They ask whether a General Election, 2nd referendum or ‘no deal Brexit’ have become more or less likely and explain why politicians claiming that the Tories are ahead in the polls are not telling the full story.

Listen to this week’s episode below:

Follow this week’s guests:


As the Tory Brexit crisis continues Corbyn’s “Best PM” ratings drop to post GE2017 low

January 17th, 2019

Chart @Statto

And Cable puts the pressure on Corbyn over 2nd referendum

A fast moving day following the Tory victory in last night’s Commons confidence vote has seen the focus on Mr, Corbyn who has refused to meet the PM.

In another move the LD leader, Vince Cable, has told Corbyn that he cannot expect his party support in a future confidence vote unless the LAB leader addresses the second referendum issue. He’s seeking to undermine the ongoing assumption by LAB that the other parties’ MPs will always line up behind to red team to undermine the blue one.

James Forsyth in the Speccie writes:

“..The aim of this tactic, to make clear that Labour can’t force a general election and so Corbyn needs to decide on a second referendum.

Now, Labour are already attacking the Lib Dems for being prepared to prop up the Tories. But the question for Corbyn is how long can he hold out against a second referendum without Labour’s splits on this issue becoming more visible..”

Meanwhile in the betting punters make it a 35% chance that there’ll be a general election this year – down from 42% last night.

Mike Smithson


If there’s a second referendum then LEAVE’s “Tell them Again” message would likely win the day

January 17th, 2019

With increasing regularity at the moment the national Westminster polls are asking how respondents would vote if there was a new referendum on Brexit. In the main the responses a fairly similar with those wanting to stay in the EU having a lead between 7 and 10%.

I am not convinced there has been that much switching. Being a Leaver or remainer is almost akin to supporting City or United in Manchester. You are one side or the other but you see almost no movement between supporters of the two teams even if one is doing better the other.

Over whether the UK should stay or leave the EU people are what they are and I very much agree with the Conservatives peer, former MP and campaign expert, Robert Hayward, who has put out an analysis saying that if we do have a second vote then the outcome will be very similar. He writes:

“..I think many of the polls (quite a few of which show limited movement) are asking a series of complex questions and the results are being spuriously aggregated.

The message ‘tell them again’ is simple, clear and full of meaning.

Given that at the previous referendum the majority of final polls showed remain in the lead (just) and that one on the day gave a remain lead of 10% it would be risky to pursue another referendum without a regular lead of 60-40. (This is generally thought to be the view held by the SNP re a further vote in Scotland)

Yes we all know people who have moved in one direction or another (in my case very few). However, the people I know who have moved have done so from Remain to Leave.

The shifting demographics might make a difference but I have been struck in recent days by friends who don’t normally express a view and who have written strong emails/texts saying we need to get on with it. I think there could be just as many extra C2s, D1s etc who would turn out to negate any extra youth support.

There were people who voted remain because of campaign fear who would not do so again. Overall I believe there is a strong possibility is that Leave could win again.”

Because I run PB people tend to talk to me about their politics and like Lord Hayward I have yet to come across a Leave to Remain switcher.

Mike Smithson